Category: Language use

Making sense of “shocked but not surprised”

If you look up “surprised” in a thesaurus, you’ll find “shocked” is a synonym. During my time working as an editor, I don’t remember distinguishing between the two words. In the last few years, however, I’ve often come upon “I was shocked but not surprised” — or is it “surprised but not shocked”?   In... Read more »

So what if I’m a middlebrow?

A couple of novels my book group recently read have me thinking about my preference for plain, direct writing. The latest was Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, a semi-autobiographical novel by a gay Vietnamese immigrant in the guise of a letter to his illiterate mother. Widely praised by critics, On Earth We’re Briefly... Read more »

Why do you write the wrong word ?

I don’t know about other bloggers on ChicagoNow, but I don’t have an editor. Since I don’t want to impose on anyone to proofread, my typos, fuzzy thinking, and grammatical errors are exposed for readers to snicker at. Sometimes I will reread a post of weeks before and catch an error.  Last Monday I made... Read more »
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You can break “false rules” of grammar

“From where he’s coming” ended a sentence in an article I read the other day. Does anyone speak like that? I suspect that the writer changed “where he’s coming from” because she was taught in school that a preposition should never end a sentence. Such “false rules,” says Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, “have a... Read more »

Distractions until we know a winner

I can’t remember such anxiety since the Bulls’ last championship game. Until a few days ago I was in denial about a possible Trump win. Then less optimistic columnists punctured my confidence. It was horrible to wake up on November 9, 2016, and learn that the polls had been wrong, but how much more horrible... Read more »

In a timely change, publications start capitalizing Black

It’s unlikely that many readers noticed, or cared, when news outlets started using % instead of percent after a numeral — a change prescribed by the Associate Press Stylebook last year. Many newspaper readers have probably noticed, and applaud, a change made in the last month, however. AP, along with many news organizations, now recommends... Read more »
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When you need upbeat fiction

When my book group chose its next novel, someone suggested Albert Camus’s The Plague for its current relevance. The rest of us wanted something less depressing in the present circumstances, so we’re reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Wanting something less depressing is nothing new for me. Back in the 1990s, I... Read more »

Good time to add to Chicago knowledge

Adding to my Chicago knowledge has been a fun diversion during isolation and a useful activity for a Chicago Greeter. I wish I’d taken notes while watching nine of Geoffrey Baer’s Chicago tours. His more than three dozen programs are available on the WTTW website. I did note new facts learned from Chicago Days: 150... Read more »

Anyone want outdated editing reference books?

In the early 1990s, my first years as a publications editor at Northwestern University, our then manager had each of us four editors list the editing reference books we owned. Up to that point in my career, all I had used were the Associated Press Stylebook and a dictionary. I came to Northwestern from newspaper... Read more »
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Giving passed away a pass

What not to say to a grieving person was the topic of an article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Writer Judith Weinstein included advice that seemed out of tone with her many thoughtful suggestions for expressing compassion: Do not use passed away or any other euphemism for died. Compared with the widespread use of passed... Read more »